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    Spears, Billie Jo (14 January 1937 – 14 December 2011)

    Singer from Beaumont, Texas, who first hit the stage at thirteen years of age at a live performance in Houston.  She was in her teens when she released her first 45, “Too Old for Toys, Too Young for Boys” with the moniker Billie Jean Moore.  (Billie Jean was her birth name.) 

     

    She did a stint on Louisiana Hayride and worked the club circuit while sniffing out a record contract.  A couple of people who helped launch her career were guitarist/producer Pete Drake and singer-songwriter Jack Rhodes.  She cut some demonstration reels with Pete but it was Jack who wrote songs for her and recorded her in his own studio. 

     

    In 1964, she made the big move to Music City, U.S.A.  United Artists inked a deal with her and soon she was teamed up with Kelso Herston, a producer.  Their early efforts went nowhere, and in 1968, the pair of them gravitated to Capitol. 

     

    Her initial release, The Voice of Billie Jo Spears, yielded a moderate hit, “He’s Got More Love on His Little Finger”, which managed a meager #48 on the country chart.  Then she hit the top five with the title track of Mr. Walker, It’s All Over, a song about a much-maligned secretary who eventually hands her boss his lunch.  It was so successful, it crossed over onto the Billboard pop chart, albeit at #80. 

     

    In 1969, she released Miss Sincerity, which gave birth to “Stepchild”.  It peaked at #43 and the album barely missed the top 40.  She followed this up with a pair of albums, Country Girl and With Love.  With Love produced a top 40 hit with “Daddy, I Love You” and Country Girl had one song hit the top 20 entitled “Marty Gray”.  “I Stayed Long Enough” grazed the top 30. 

     

    She recorded a string of singles that enjoyed varying degrees of success:  “It Could Have Been Me” was the most successful of the three, going to #23.  “See the Funny Little Clown” hit #80.  “Souvenirs and California Memories” was fairly forgettable, peaking at #68.  She also did some remakes at Capitol such as “Harper Valley P.T.A.” and “Ode to Billie Joe”.  (Get it?)  Perhaps the most creatively titled song she ever did was “Get Behind Me Satan and Push”. 

     

    She was bedeviled by vocal problems, however, and had to have several polyps and nodules surgically removed from her vocal cords.  She re-emerged in 1975, her second stint with United Artists, and it sparked her career.  The title track of Blanket on the Ground became her first and only #1 hit on the country chart and hit the top five in the U.K.  It also made a modest showing on the U.S. pop chart at #78.  Her follow-up, simply titled Billie Jo, produced a couple of top 20 hits in “Silver Wings and Golden Rings” and “Stay away from the Apple Tree”.  Singles from 1976’s What I’ve Got in Mind Ain’t Mine fared much better.  “What I’ve Got in Mind” went to #5 in the States and the United Kingdom.  “Misty Blue” did the same stateside. 

     

    In 1976, she recorded an album of duets with Del Reeves entitled By Request.  It bore fruit with “On the Rebound” and “Teardrops Will Kiss the Morning Dew”, which went to #29 and #42, respectively.  She also found time to crank out another solo album, I’m Not Easy.  The title track reached #11 and “Never Did Like Whiskey” dried out at #18. 

     

    She was equally prolific in 1977, releasing another couple of albums, If You Want Me and Lonely Hearts Club.  The title track from If You Want Me reached #8 and “Too Much is Not Enough” enjoyed the #18 position on the country chart.  “Lonely Hearts Club” reached the same position, and then Billie climbed the charts slowly, reaching #17 with “I’ve Got to Go” and #16 with “57 Chevrolet”. 

     

    In 1978, the title tune of Love Ain’t Gonna Wait for Us reached #24 and “Yesterday” chugged along to #60.  Then she did a disco turn, sort of, covering Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”, on the album of the same name.  It went to #21, as did “Rainy Days and Stormy Nights”, and “Livin’ our Love Together reached #23. 

     

    In 1980, the title track from Standing Tall went as high as #15 and “Natural Attraction” cracked the Top 40.  “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad” hit #13 and was included on the 1981 compilation, Only the Hits.  The album also featured a cover of “What the World Needs Now is Love”, which went to #58.  “Midnight Blue” and “Midnight Love”, a pair of singles, hit #39 and #51, respectively. 

     

    It was the midnight of her career in the States, however, so she set her sites on the U.K., where she was dubbed “The Queen Mother of Country Music” by Country Music People.  She spent much of her time performing and recording in the U.K. 

     

    On 14th December 2011, she died of complications from cancer at her home in Vidor, Texas.  She was 74.

     

    Her musical legacy lives on in retrospectives such as Best of Billie Jo Spears:  Crazy, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, and Ultimate Collection.

     

    Billie Jo Spears recordings

    I Will Survive (D. Fekaris/F. Perren)

     

    Sources:

    1. http://www.google.com/musica?aid=8QPzmhJbPVJ&ei=o4FTSsSlGIrYNqTujd4I&sa=X&oi=music&ct=result
    2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billie_Jo_Spears
    3. http://www.artistdirect.com/artist/bio/billie-jo-spears/495864
    4. http://www.amazon.com/Billie-Jo-Spears/e/B000APWSR8
    5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billie_Jo_Spears

            

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     



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